After 7 months, Saudi Arabia to reopen holy sites for Umra

Riyadh, October 03:  Saudi Arabia will reopen the holy places for the year-round Umra pilgrimage on Sunday, scaled back and with extensive health precautions, seven months after coronavirus prompted its suspension, AFP news agency reported.

Umra usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year.

It will be revived in three stages, with the initial phase seeing just 6,000 citizens and residents already within the kingdom allowed to take part each day, the AFP report said.

“In the first stage, the Umra will be performed meticulously and within a specified period of time,” Haj Minister Mohammad Benten told state television last week.

He said pilgrims will be divided into groups to ensure social distancing within the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Visitors from abroad to be permitted from Nov 1

According to AFP, Worshippers will on Sunday be able to perform the ritual of circling the sacred Kaaba along socially distanced paths.

On October 18, the number of pilgrims will be increased to 15,000 per day, with a maximum of 40,000 people allowed to perform prayers at the mosque.

Visitors from abroad will be permitted from November 1, when capacity will be raised to 20,000 pilgrims, with 60,000 people allowed into the mosque, the report added.

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